Scientists Say Dairy Cows Contribute to LA Smog

A study in Geophysical Research Letters points to emissions from dairy cows as a significant source of pollution.


While cars have been blamed for Los Angeles’ notorious smog problem, new research suggests that cows may play an equally significant role in the area’s air pollution. According to a study conducted by scientists from the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the city’s smog contains ammonium nitrate—a gas that is formed when ammonia reacts with nitrogen oxides. Researchers say cows release approximately 33 to 176 tons of ammonia daily, as compared to 62 tons released by cars alone, making them a more substantial factor in smog emissions than previously thought. The California Dairy Industry remains skeptical of these findings, citing the study’s purported over-estimation of the number of cows in the region.

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